• Thu, Nov 17 2011

What Does Ayn Rand Have To Do With Yoga?

Yoga clothes and running gear purveyor Lulelemon is now featuring Ayn Rand’s iconic Atlas Shrugged hero, John Galt, on the side of its shopping bags—a move which has some yogis up in arms. After all, some might say yoga is all about collectivism, and the belief that we are all one—which is exactly the kind of thing that Galt (and Rand) opposed. But both the lofty rhetoric behind the Lululemon bags and the people that object to these bags on political or ideological grounds just strike me as kind of … funny. And absurd, of course.

So what’s behind the bags? Apparently, Lululemon founder Chip Wilson is a Randoid! Lululemon blogger Alexis writes:

You might be wondering why a company that makes yoga clothing has chosen a legendary literary character’s name to adorn the side of our bags. lululemon’s founder, Chip Wilson, first read this book when he was eighteen years old working away from home. Only later, looking back, did he realize the impact the book’s ideology had on his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness (it is not coincidental that this is lululemon’s company vision).

Many of us choose mediocrity without even realizing it. We think we “have” to do things or “aren’t able” to do what we want. We create rules and experience fear when we dream of a life we love. Why do we do this? Because our society encourages mediocrity. It is easier to be mediocre than to be great.

The bags, Alexis explains, are meant to serve as visual reminders “to live a life we love and conquer the epidemic of mediocrity.”

I know that companies co-opting empowering ideas as marketing slogans is nothing new, and this Lululemon case isn’t even one of the most egregious examples. And I suppose the idea that practicing yoga or running is one means to conquering mediocrity does make some sense, or at least there’s a logic to it. But the whole thing is just kind of bizarrely melodramatic, don’t you think? As one commenter at Lululemon wrote:

Nothing helps fight mediocrity like expensive yoga clothes … High quality goods, but come on, lose the delusions of grandeur.

I have to agree with that take: I am not sure how fancy, expensive yoga clothes will help you fight the epidemic of mediocrity (but if you’ve found they do, more power to you!). What I oppose is comments like this one:

lulu is primarily patronized by yogis who favor strong social safety net programs like medicare, social security and unemployment insurance and advocating unbridled/unregulated capitalism. I’m fairly shocked to hear that lululemon and Ron Paul draw their inspiration from the same author

Yoga is an exercise, people. At least in its current widespread American form. It is not a political philosophy, nor does it imply a political philosophy—plenty of conservatives, libertarians and people of all political stripes do sun salutations, I’m pretty sure. Maybe Ayn Rand wouldn’t do yoga, but that doesn’t mean yogis can’t dig Ayn Rand. Or, as another commenter aptly puts it: Lululemon isn’t Medicare, social security, or salvation. It’s pants. Stretchy pants.

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  • ken

    “his quest to elevate the world from mediocrity to greatness”? What a loser.